We doubt you’ll be driving a Bugatti Bolide anytime soon. It’s a bit of a showy concept car, and it really is pushing some limits on what you can 3D print in an automobile. As you can imagine, they aren’t printing car parts out of ABS or PLA. According to The Drive, the prints use selective laser melting with titanium to make some impressively strong and light parts.
It isn’t just the material that makes the 3D prints strong. Bugatti actually patented the internal structure of some parts which are almost bone-like. By having the parts largely hollow, the weight is cut. But fine internal structure creates very strong parts. How strong? A 3.52 ounce pushrod can handle up to 3.85 tons. The printed titanium is apparently heat-treated to increase its resistance to fracture strains.
In addition to titanium, some of the concept car’s parts are printed ceramic which insulates some components from heat. The printing process can apparently get resolutions down to 0.1 mm. Many parts are quite lightweight including a 0.48 mm wheel that with supports weighs in at about 100 grams.
We all know that all those little strips of LEDs have to be chained together somehow. Wires would work fine in a larger version, but at roughly softball size, they become a tedious and fiddly nightmare. So what did [AGBarber] do instead? That’s right, they designed two different types of custom corner PCBs. The 3D printed brackets that hold the LEDs and the panels together are no cakewalk, either — [AGBarber] recommends using a resin printer if you have access to one, though it isn’t strictly required.
Everything about this project is open source, including a bonus printable jig for gluing the brackets together at just the right angles. All the steps are well-documented, from applying the mirror film to programming the Wemos D1 mini that controls the lights [AGBarber] programmed in a ton of animations, too, which you can watch after the break.
There are an awful lot of machines on the market these days that fall under the broad category of “cheap Chinese laser cutters”. You know the type — the K40s, the no-name benchtop CO2 cutters, the bigger floor-mount units. If you’ve recently purchased one of these machines from one of the usual vendors, or even if you’re just thinking about doing so, you’ll likely have some questions. In which case, this “Chinese Laser Cutters 101” online class might be right up your alley. We got wind of this though its organizer, Jonathan Schwartz of American Laser Cutter in Los Angeles, who says he’s been installing, repairing, and using laser cutters for a decade now. The free class will be on February 8 at 5:00 PM PST, and while it’s open to all, it does require registration.
We got an interesting tip the other day that had to do with Benford’s Law. We’d never heard of this one, so we assumed was a “joke law” like Murphy’s Law or Betteridge’s Rule of Headlines. But it turns out that Benford’s Law describes the distribution of leading digits in large sets of numbers. Specifically, it says that the leading digit in any given number is more likely to be one of the smaller numbers. Measurements show that rather than each of the nine base 10 digits showing up about 11% of the time, a 1 will appear in the leading digit 30% of the time, while a 9 will appear about 5% of the time. It’s an interesting phenomenon, and the tip we got pointed to an article that attempted to apply Benford’s Law to image files. This technique was used in a TV show to prove an image had been tampered with, but as it turns out, Hollywood doesn’t always get technical material right. Shocking, we know, but the technique was still interesting and the code developed to Benford-ize image files might be useful in other ways.
Everyone knew it was coming, and for a long time in advance, but it still seems that the once-and-for-all, we’re not kidding this time, it’s for realsies shutdown of Adobe Flash has had some real world consequences. To wit, a railroad system in the northern Chinese city of Dalian ground to a halt earlier this month thanks to Flash going away. No, they weren’t using Flash to control the railroad, but rather it was buried deep inside software used to schedule and route trains. It threw the system into chaos for a while, but never fear — they got back up and running by installing a pirated version of Flash. Here’s hoping that they’re working on a more permanent solution to the problem.
First it was toilet paper and hand sanitizer, now it’s…STM32 chips? Maybe, if the chatter on Twitter and other channels is to be believed. Seems like people are having a hard time sourcing the microcontroller lately. It’s all anecdotal so far, of course, but the prevailing theory is that COVID-19 and worker strikes have lead to a pinch in production. Plus, you know, the whole 2020 thing. We’re wondering if our readers have noticed anything on this — if so, let us know in the comments below.
And finally, just because it’s cool, here’s a video of what rockets would look like if they were transparent. Well, obviously, they’d look like twisted heaps of burning wreckage on the ground is they were really made with clear plastic panels and fuel tanks, but you get the idea. The video launches a virtual fleet — a Saturn V, a Space Shuttle, a Falcon Heavy, and the hypothetical SLS rocket — and flies them in tight formation while we get to watch their consumables be consumed. If the burn rates are accurate, it’s surprising how little fuel and oxidizer the Shuttle used compared to the Saturn. We were also surprised how long the SLS holds onto its escape tower, and were pleased by the Falcon Heavy payload reveal.
Outputting data from a microcontroller over a serial port is convenient and easy, but formatting, visualizing, and analyzing the data can be tedious and frustrating. [Alex Spataru] knows this all too well, having spent too many hours building and debugging custom dashboards. To save himself and others the same frustration in the future, he created Serial Studio, a tool for quickly building dashboards for serial data.
The only input required for Serial Studio to create a dashboard is a simple JSON structure specifying the data’s format, and how it should be grouped and displayed. Originally Serial Studio required all the JSON data to be sent over serial, which is fine for simple data but quickly becomes cumbersome for more complex applications. To solve this, [Alex] added a feature allowing the JSON document with the format information loaded from the computer, while only the data is sent over serial.
Serial Studio includes several visualization options, including raw line graphs, bar/level indicator, dial indicator, the artificial horizon for IMU data, or a map widget. It can also output the formatted data to a CSV file for further analysis in other software. A console window is also included for viewing raw data or debugging purposes. See the usage demo after the break.
We like Serial Studio’s ease of use and adaptability, and we’ll likely use it for our own projects in the future. It is compatible with Linux, Windows, and Mac thanks to the Qt framework, and the code is open-source and available on GitHub.
Many current efforts at weed detection and classification use fancy (and expensive) multispectral cameras, but PhenoCV-WeedCam relies primarily on an OAK-D stereo depth camera. The system is still being developed, but is somewhat further along than a proof of concept. The portable setups use a Raspberry Pi, stereo camera unit, power banks, an Android tablet for interfacing, and currently require an obedient human to move and point them.
It’s an interesting peek at the kind of hands-on work that goes into data gathering for development. Armed with loads of field data from many different environments, the system can use the data to identify grasses, broad leaf plants, and soil in every image. This alone is useful, but depth information also allows the system to estimate overall plant density as well as try to determine the growth center of any particular plant. Knowing that a weed is present is one thing, but to eliminate it with precision — for example with a laser or mini weed whacker on a robot arm — knowing where the weed is actually growing from is an important detail.
Measuring the usage of domestic utilities such as water, gas or electricity usually boils down to measuring a repetitive pulse signal with respect to time. To make things easy, most modern utility meters have a pulsed LED output, which can be used to monitor the consumption by using an external optical sensor. But what do you do if your meter isn’t so cooperative?
That’s exactly what [Francesco] had to figure out while developing the non-invasive gas tracking system he calls ESPmeter. His meter might not have an LED, but it did have a magnet attached to the counter disk which activated an internal hall sensor. With some hacking, he was able to attach an external Hall-effect sensor to pick up this magnet and use the signal to monitor his daily gas consumption.
A big stumbling block in such projects is the issue of powering the device for an extended period, and remembering when it’s time to change the batteries. With the clever use of commonly available parts, he was able to reduce power consumption allowing three AA batteries to last about a year between changes. For one thing, he uses an ATtiny13 to actually read the sensor values. The chip doesn’t run continuously, its watchdog is set at 1 Hz, ensuring that the device is woken up often enough so that it has time to power up the sensor and detect the presence of the magnet. Battery voltage is also measured via a voltage divider connected to the chip’s ADC pin.
At regular intervals throughout the day, the ESP8266 polls the ATtiny13 to pull the stored sensor pulses and voltage measurement. Then at midnight, the ESP transmits all the collected data to a remote server. Overall, this whole scheme allows [Francesco] to reliably gather his gas consumption data while not having to worry about batteries until he gets the low voltage notification. Since the data visualization requirements are pretty basic, he is keeping things simple by using Plotly to display his time series data.
One of the essentials on the bench is some form of hot air gun. Whether it’s a precision tool intended for reworking PCBs or the broad-stroke item used for paint stripping, we’ve all got one somewhere. The paint-stripping variety are pretty cheap, but not as cheap as [Porcas Pregos e Parafusos]’s home made hot air gun. This slightly hair-raising device is made from a variety of junk parts and delivers hot air, though we suspect the possibility for burning the operator remains high.
At its heart is one of those mains powered water boiler elements designed to be lowered into a cup or similar, and since such devices would burn out if not cooled in some way, there is a fan from a microwave oven passing air over it. The whole thing sits inside an aluminium cone cut from a circular cake tin, and is held together on a wooden chassis to which the handle and power switch from a defunct electric drill provide the operator with something to hold on to.
As you can see from the video below the break it makes for an effective hot air gun, but one that we’re guessing you’d soon learn to avoid touching on the metal cone. Still, as a community we’re used to this with our soldering irons, as the RevSpace T-shirt puts it: “If it smells like chicken, you’re holding it wrong“.